When you’re a new parent, especially when you’re staying at home to care for your infant, it can be pretty isolating. Before my maternity leave, I imagined a luxurious year of relaxing in my apartment, finally getting time to clean up and repaint, and enjoying the peace and quiet that comes with getting to stay at home. Ha ha ha…I know, right? I was so looking forward to not having to leave the house and deal with traffic, rude people, or the various annoyances that come along with taking public transit every day. What I discovered is that it didn’t take long for me to develop a serious case of cabin fever.
When I was working, my home was a comforting solace at the end of a hectic and stressful day. Once I stopped working, I quickly got pretty bored of staring at the same four walls day in and day out. All of a sudden, the most banal activities were exciting. A trip to Tim Horton’s for a hot chocolate? Woo hoo! Something different to do! Grocery shopping? Bring it on! Just get me out of this messy, cluttered, way-too-tiny apartment!
Of course, there are only so many times that you can think of an excuse to go to the grocery store. I’ve found some other places that I can go with my baby that get us both out of the house and keep him interested and occupied. Each of these things is either free or costs less than $10. So if you’re stuck at home, going out of your mind, and looking for something to do, why not try one of these out? You’ve got nothing to lose, except for a couple of hours confined inside the same walls that you were staring at yesterday.
- IKEA - even pre-baby, I loved IKEA. Now it’s one of my favourite places to go with him during the day. It is very baby-friendly, with family parking spaces and nice wide aisles that accommodate strollers. There are lots of colourful things for babies to look at. The store itself is big, so if you take a trip through the showroom and then the marketplace, you can easily kill an hour and get some walking in at the same time. If you’re hungry, you can visit their cafeteria and grab some lunch for around $5. Judging from the number of other moms that I see pushing their strollers through there during the day, I’m not the only one who enjoys going here as a free baby date.
The mall - chances are, there is some kind of shopping centre somewhere near where you live. For killing time, nothing beats plopping your baby in a stroller or carrier and taking a stroll through the mall. Again, they are usually family friendly with family wash rooms and lots of space for strollers. The malls in my city all offer free stroller walking classes for new parents. One of them also offers a free mom and baby Zumba class once a week. Check out the shopping centre near you to see if they offer something similar, or just organize a group of parents to get together and walk the mall together. If you live somewhere like me where it rains for most of the year, this is an especially good option.
- The library – I was pleased to recently discover that most libraries offer free story-time for infants and toddlers. The one near me offers a half-hour program, three times a week for free! We sing songs and the librarians read a story or two and play with hand puppets. Babies six months and under might not really appreciate it, but at least it gets you both out of the house. My baby just liked looking around at the other kids and hearing me sing to him. Anything that is free, gets me out of the house, and keeps my baby occupied and happy for half an hour is worth it.
- Outside – One of the easiest ways to get out of the house is just to literally get out of the house. Even if I don’t particularly feel like going anywhere, putting my baby in his stroller and taking a walk around my neighbourhood is often enough to perk me up and make me feel less stir-crazy. There is something about fresh air that my baby likes as well, so if he’s especially whiny or bored, a walk around the block will usually distract him and make him happy. I have lots of hills near where I live, so as an added bonus I get some exercise in too!
- Mom and baby drop-ins - I have to admit, I haven’t fully taken advantage of drop-in programs, but there are a ton of them. Most of them are geared towards new parents, and are offered a rate of $1-2 per session. Some of them are just social, some offer guest speakers on subjects like daycare and car seat safety, and some of them are more structured learning. I’ve been kind of nervous to go to one of these on my own, but I figure that if I go and hate it, I’ve only wasted an afternoon. Google “mom and baby drop-in” and see what’s available in your area. Like me, you might be surprised at how many there are!
These are the ways that I’ve been keeping busy during my baby’s first half year of life. New parents, what do you do to keep you and your baby occupied during the day?